Social Security cuts considered in 2014 budget talks
(WBNG Binghamton) President Barack Obama released his 2014 budget request that for the first time includes proposed cuts to Social Security. The move has angered many of the president's typical allies on the left, while earning him a few praises from his opponents on the right. The proposal involves changing how the annual cost-of-living adjustments are made. COLA increases are currently measured by the annual inflation tagged to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W. The new proposal involves using a "chained CPI" instead. A "chained CPI" takes into account consumer responses to inflation. For example, when prices of beef go up, consumers are known to save by switching to a lower priced meat, like chicken. That behavior can save consumers money, and therefore lower the effect of inflated prices. A "chained CPI" would include that into its formula, resulting in a slightly lower COLA increase estimated to be about 0.3 percent. David Irwin, a spokesman for New York AARP, said the proposed metrics are flawed. "The older an individual gets, the sicker they are, the more expenses they have," Irwin said, "And the less their Social Security benefit is going to be." He said the "chained CPI" doesn't take into account medical expenses, which rise faster than inflation and are not often able to be traded down for something cheaper. Irwin said the compromise could be dangerous by turning off millions of senior voters, according to a recent AARP survey. "Seventy percent of survey respondents said if their member of Congress supports a 'chained CPI' it could end up costing them some of the most powerful votes in New York state and indeed the nation. That is the 50-plus vote," he said. The president's grand bargain is in exchange for $600 billion in tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, something House and Senate Republicans have staunchly opposed. Seniors at the Endwell Senior Center said they were sad to hear their benefit program is being considered for budget cuts. "It's so important to have that, to count on that," said Beryl Blakemore, of Vestal. "I don't think you should play games with Social Security and Medicare." Vestal Gillette, 69, was worried about her sister and others who only have Social Security to rely on for their retirement. "A lot of them don't have pensions," Gillette said, "I have a pension, but a lot of them don't have pensions. They depend on Social Security and I don't think it's fair." While the Congressional Budget Office reports the adjustment could save $127 billion in the next 10 years, Irwin and other advocates say that's money that won't be going to seniors. In Broome County, the cuts could total $108 million, according to reports. The proposed change does not effect programs for the poor, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or disability benefits (SSDI).